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Cholestasis is defined as failure of normal amounts of bile to reach the duodenum. The source of the interference may reside in the main bile ducts - extrahepatic cholestasis - or within the liver - intrahepatic cholestasis.

Morphologically, cholestasis is characterised by the accumulation of bile in liver cells and biliary passages; biochemically, by the retention of all substances normally excreted in the bile.

Presentation is usually with pruritus and the slow onset of jaundice.

The term "obstructive jaundice" usually refers to cholestasis of extra-hepatic origin.

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